We use cookies to provide and improve our services. They allow us to remember some of our preferences and improve the overall site performance. View our Privacy policy.

Biomedical engineer receives $1.6 million to deliver new epilepsy management strategies

Original article published by the Faculty of Engineering and IT

Epileptic seizures often strike without warning, posing significant risks and challenges for those affected by the condition. Drawing on her groundbreaking research using a mobile app to track intrinsic rhythms of seizure risk, Dr Pip Karoly has been awarded $1.6 million to establish seizure risk forecasting as a clinical standard for epilepsy management.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding will allow Dr Karoly to explore how multi-day rhythms of seizure risk relate to stress, sleep and other physiological dynamics, with the aim of linking risk forecasts for individuals to a new, targeted mobile intervention system that will reduce the chance of seizures occurring.

The system will build on Dr Karoly’s successful seizure risk tracking app, developed in 2022 in collaboration with Seer Medical, which is currently being used by thousands of people with epilepsy to record their seizures.

“Our goal is to transform the way epilepsy is managed by integrating seizure risk forecasting into clinical practice. This funding allows us to take another significant step towards reducing the uncertainty and anxiety that people with epilepsy face daily,” Dr Karoly said.

Dr Karoly’s new research project will investigate the interaction between multi-day cycles of seizure risk, stress and the autonomic nervous system. Multi-day seizure cycles refer to the phenomenon where seizures tend to cluster at specific periodic intervals over several days to months, which means people often experience seizures at predictable times, based on their own underlying cycles.

Although multi-day cycles are common in epilepsy (with at least 60 per cent of people affected), the cycle length is unique to each person, so the ability to track individuals’ data over longer periods using wearable and mobile technology is critical to increasing quality of life.

"I believe that discovering the underlying physiological mechanisms of multi-day cycles is a key to understanding what causes seizures and will enable us to develop more effective, personalised interventions,” Dr Karoly said.

“Therefore, my research group is dedicated to understanding multi-day rhythms, with a focus on delivering translational technologies to help people with epilepsy live more confidently and with fewer disruptions.”

Over the next few years, the research outcomes are expected to provide new insights into seizure mechanisms, clinical validation of seizure risk forecasting, and the development of a new, non-invasive intervention to reduce seizures.

Looking further ahead, Dr Karoly believes that “epilepsy is just the tip of the iceberg”, with many other conditions potentially affected by intrinsic multi-day rhythms that could also benefit from risk forecasting.